Cat From The Mat

Belonging: An Inside Job

“The need to belong is who we are in our DNA.”

- Brené Brown 

The concept of belonging is a universal human experience. We are neurologically wired to belong, since it means survival. I remember feeling the peer pressure to “fit in” at school. Those moments fluctuated though, because it was dependent on what others thought of me, rather than on what I thought of myself. The school climate can be challenging, but what if you don’t feel like you belong at home?

Researcher and author Brené Brown explores this topic. She has interviewed kids about how tough it is to feel alienated among classmates. However, they all agreed that not being accepted by your family is a far more painful reality.

As babies, you are dependent on others to help meet your many needs, one of which is belonging. You want others around you to not only mirror who you are but to appreciate your contributing presence. It helps build a sense of self, which is why children must be self-centered as they develop. However, if this self-knowledge does not get established, it can lead to a pattern of people-pleasing or constant insecurity, both of which require external circumstances to dictate whether or not you are “acceptable.”

Brené makes the point that you cannot negotiate belonging outside of yourself. If you look externally for validation, then you become dependent on others to determine your self-worth. Belonging is truly an inside job.  

So how does one measure belonging within?  Is it the quality of self-trust?  Is it the ability to be authentic, regardless of circumstances?  Or is it a practice of knowing your essence with cultivated compassion to delve deeper into the unknown parts of self?

The world at the moment is full of people who are shouting, hoping to be heard. We seem to be splintered into factions unable to agree on what is a shared reality, which can breed metastasized fear. However, common enemy intimacy is not true belonging. It’s a false sense of connection. Sharing an ideological bunker is a superficial attempt to bond.

It takes courage to be vulnerable with someone with whom you disagree. Authenticity is the need to stand alone in your beliefs even if it means jeopardizing your connection with others. When you belong, you feel at ease, safe, and supported. This helps the nervous system stay in a healthy stress range. Feeling at home in your own skin, no matter where you go, is a self-generated process.

As we celebrate independence this month, I invite you to notice if and how you your community, your family, and most importantly to yourself. If you believe in yourself, then you can begin to identify with your relatives, friends, coworkers, and even angry strangers.  Perhaps freedom is that ability to be you, regardless of extrinsic pressures. Liberate your reliance on others first so that you can stay self-anchored, from which you might become more curious about understanding the outer world.

Happy Self-Belonging!


Cat From the Mat

July blog 2018